Lyme disease, or borreliosis, is an emerging infectious disease caused by at least three species of the genus Borrelia, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto is the main cause of Lyme disease in the US, whereas Borrelia afzelii and Borelia garinii cause most European cases. The disease is named for the village of Lyme in the US, where a number of cases were identified in 1975. Although it was realized in 1978 that Lyme disease was a tick-borne disease, the cause of the disease was only identified in 1982 by Willy Burgdorfer.
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere. Borrelia is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks belonging to a few species of the genus Ixodes (the so-called "hard ticks"). Early symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, depression, and a characteristic circular skin rash called erythema migrans. Left untreated, later symptoms may involve the joints, heart, and central nrevous system. In most cases, the infection and its symptoms are eliminated by antibiotics, especially if the illness is treated early. Late, delayed, or inadequate treatment can lead to the more serious symptoms, which can be disabling and difficult to treat. Occasionally, symptoms such as arthritis persist after the infection has been eliminated by antibiotics, prompting suggestions that Borrelia causes autoimmunity.
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